Microsoft has confirmed rumors that Xbox Live is getting rebranded to something new for the Xbox Series X/S era – meet the Xbox Network!
Xbox Live as a brand has existed since the very first Xbox. In many ways, the service pioneered online console gaming on the original Xbox. It certainly helped popularize it.
It arguably took the baton from the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast. A console that had a similar vision, something that led to Sony and Nintendo scrambling to catch up.
Catch up they did, but even today, Sony still hasn’t fully managed to wrestle the crown from Microsoft’s head. At least when it comes to community building and multiplayer.
Sony’s PlayStation consoles often outshine Microsoft’s in many areas, but Xbox Live is still king when it comes to online services.
Xbox Game Pass is the main reason why Microsoft is still the MVP of online gaming. The question is does that need Xbox Gold to exist?
The PS4 especially came very close to leveling the playing field, but Xbox Live endures. That is until now.
Xbox Live Rebrand to Xbox Network
Yesterday, we reported a rumor that Xbox Live would now be called Xbox network – this has now been officially confirmed by Microsoft as correct.
In many ways Xbox Live isn’t going anywhere; Microsoft is simply updating the branding to modernize the concept. The idea of ‘Xbox going live’ is a little 2002. But there may be some changes to what we're used to.
From now on, Xbox Live will be called the Xbox network (little ‘n’ is deliberate too). Microsoft has made this change to differentiate its online services from Xbox Live Gold - which may be a very important sign of things to come.
Many suspect Microsoft may drop the Live concept entirely in time, replacing it with their Xbox Game Pass service going forward. It seems like Microsoft is keen to consolidate its online services under one umbrella, that being the Xbox network.
It appears that the plan is for Game Pass to become the premium service. Meaning the concept of a Gold membership to access Xbox Live may soon be redundant. - Something that has arguably already transpired.
The Death of Xbox Live Gold
Xbox owners may remember some confusion last year around free-to-play games still requiring a Gold Live membership. This is something that simply doesn’t fly with gamers in 2021, despite it being Microsoft’s policy in the Xbox 360 era.
Microsoft also came into conflict with third-party companies like the BBC, who make a point to offer their streaming service; the iPlayer for free. Charging Xbox owners simply for access to online content was never going to last forever, which is why Microsoft eventually relented.
Today the free-to-play model is increasing in popularity. For many games, profit comes from continuous content drops rather than initial copy sales. Therefore, the Xbox Live model may no longer be sustainable or even relevant.
This is a reality that Sony has also needed to adapt to, along with Nintendo. However, increased reliance on Xbox Game Pass and the rollout of Xbox Cloud gaming may have also influenced Microsoft’s decision to rebrand Xbox Live.
It’s confusing and expensive to expect players to pay multiple fees for multiple Xbox services. But paying one flat monthly fee for all that Xbox network goodness could make Microsoft unstoppable.
This is especially true now Xbox is upgrading its Cloud Gaming service. But when it comes to Xbox Gold memberships, we feel the writing is on the wall. Change is coming.